Is the Period Past its Prime?

August 23, 2016

David Crystal, a professor in Wales and author of more than 100 books on language, says punctuation is evolving, or even going away altogether.

 

Called the “full stop” across the pond, the period has been a sentence anchor for thousands of years, but all before the advent of social media. In the age of concise messaging, millennials in particular frequently skip commas and periods. With limited space or characters, writers know their message’s recipients will get when a thought ends.

 

 Hashtags come to mind, for example. #idonthavetimetousepunctuation is long, but still easy to decipher. It’s much easier for some to type a Tweet or instant message without punctuation.

 

That doesn’t mean that skipping punctuation is OK in business writing, at least not yet! But people who craft messages for a living, even on social media, need to pay attention to another change in period use that Crystal points out in this New York Times article.

 

The period also is evolving, and now often indicates emphasis or emotion. Adding a period at the end of a one-word sentence carries an undertone of an abrupt, not-so-happy response. Let’s say you text your boss asking if it’s OK to miss the morning’s meeting, and she texts back simply, “Sure.” Yikes, what does that mean?

 

The period also is being used to suggest a pause between words for emphasis. Here’s an example. “Best. Birthday. Ever.” Grammatically correct? Not at all, but if you read the words aloud, you get just how great the writer’s birthday was.

 

So, what can you do in business writing about your punctuation? I suggest you continue using correct grammar and punctuation in your business writing. When on social media for personal or professional purposes, follow the trends, but with caution. Keep abreast of hidden meanings and social media protocol on punctuation, just as you do with emoticons, catch phrases and abbreviations.

 

Brush up your use of the period and other punctuation in our Punctuation That Counts! online course. Call. Us. Today. (425-485-3221)

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